Pickup of the Day: Terrence Jones


(Soobum Im / USA TODAY Sports)

This season I will highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s owned in less than 40% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Wednesday, December 25–#NBAXmas–is Terrence Jones. After a strong stretch earlier in the season, his numbers took a huge dive during and following a bout with the flu this month, to the point where his ownership dropped to 35% in Yahoo! Leagues and 28.6% in ESPN Leagues. It was never clear why Jones declined so much even after recovering from his illness, but last night’s game showed he’s still got the mojo he had earlier this year.

Here’s a look at his line last night against San Antonio:
20131225 Terrence Jones

Still got it! This is by far his best game since he dropped 16 points, 13 reb, 2 stl, 5 blk and 2 3pm against Orlando on Dec. 8. In the seven games between that game and last night’s, however, he was terrible. Here’s a comparison of how he did in those seven games against his other 15 starts this season:

20131225 Terrence Chart

Right now, we can only speculate as to whether his play was due to the after-effects of the flu or something more persistent, but his near across-the-board contributions (albeit with disappointing FT%) when he is playing well makes him worth the gamble. If he’s back on track, you need to get him back into your rotation or at least on your bench so you can monitor him.

Other Notable Players: If the Bulls ever trade either Luol Deng or Carlos Boozer, grab Taj Gibson immediately. Here’s a look at Gibson’s numbers with and without Deng in the line-up this season:

20131226 Taj Chart

Gibson’s numbers seem decent even overall, but he scored in single digits in nine of his first 13 games before Boozer slipped in production for three games. Then Gibson went off, culminating in a 26-14 and 5 blk in a triple-OT affair on Dec. 2. After that, Boozer got productive again, but Deng went out, so Gibson was able to keep his numbers up until Deng returned on Dec. 14. Gibson looked to be heading back to his early-season levels of unproductivity at that point, until Deng missed the last three games. Now Gibson is playing strong again, but this will end again as soon as Deng returns.

What to do with Gibson then? If you have a free roster spot, stash him. This is a guy who plays the extremely valuable PF/C position who is getting more opportunities this year than any since his rookie season before Boozer arrived in Chicago.

Another notable event in Chicago was the return of Kirk Hinrich to the starting line-up, though he only managed 20 min and D.J. Augustin outplayed him in his 33 min. Hinrich has gotten a lot of minutes at PG this year with Derrick Rose out, though possibly undeservedly considering he’s shooting a career-low 34.5% FG. Augustin has definitely outplayed Hinrich recently, but this is likely to become a timeshare that sinks both players’ values.

So Brooklyn still sucks, but Mirza Teletovic put up 17 pts, 2 blk, and 3 3pm in 19 min. As Rotoworld’s Aaron Bruski noted, those are Andrea Bargnani numbers when Bargnani is actually good (not last night). Anything is a possible in a post-Brook Lopez world. Speaking of whom, his anticipated successor Andray Blatche has been subpar in both games since Lopez’s season ended, but Blatche is going to receive too many opportunities to ignore.

As far as that other crappy team in the boroughs, there was plenty of notable fantasy pickup news with Raymond Felton and Carmelo Anthony both sitting on the bench looking like this. Beno Udrih was awful, which is bad news considering both Felton and Pablo Prigioni are still expected to be out a while longer. Another PG option to which the Knicks may turn is rookie Tim Hardaway Jr., who put in an efficient 10 points on 4-of-8 FG in the first half and then a more J.R. Smith-esque 11 points on 4-of-11 FG in the second. You would expect a noted defender like him to get more steals, but he doesn’t. Amar’e Stoudemire scoring 22 points in last night’s blowout was nice, but he hadn’t scored in double-digits or played 20 min in his previous four games.

The Lakers actually played the Heat pretty tightly last night, considering the blowouts that preceded their game. Jodie Meeks was excellent, dropping 17-4-3-2-0 with 4 3pm on 50.0% FG. You’re welcome, 1.5 people who picked him up because of Tuesday’s column. I still like him way more than I like Nick Young, who scored a little more last night (20 pts) but got no steals and shot 38.9% FG.

Jordan Hill looked great against the weak Miami frontline, going 7-5-1-3-2 in his 12 min in the first half. He wasn’t as good with 2-5-0-1-1 in his 12 min in the second. Somehow, coach Mike D’Antoni still managed to keep his minutes limited even without playing either Chris Kaman or Robert Sacre. Considering Pau Gasol is now day-to-day, one would expect D’Antoni would have no choice but to play Hill 30+ min. It seems like a lock, but D’Antoni has become a savant at finding ways to jerk Hill’s minutes around.

The big news should’ve been that Jordan Farmar returned and played over 32 min, but he only managed a paltry 3-5-2-0-0 while missing six of his seven shots and committing four turnovers. He did not look aggressive at all, but this should change as he gets more comfortable with his recovering hamstring. Also, as noted before in this blog, the Heat are an absolutely brutal matchup for opposing point guards. “Backup PG” Xavier Henry didn’t do too badly, going 14-5-2-2-0, but he’s destined for a deeper bench role now.

Aaron Brooks seemed good in his first game playing behind Jeremy Lin, but he was horrible last night. Unlike many fantasy prognosticators, I am still fully on-board with Brooks’s value. Houston won’t likely play him like they did Patrick Beverley, where both Lin and Beverley often saw the court together at the end of games, but Brooks hopefully will get chances to come in as a scorer and playmaker off the bench much the same way that Isaiah Thomas did earlier this year for Sacramento.

Both Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes put up duds last night after alternating good games for the previous two, and that’s all the news from the only marquee matchup on Christmas.

Top Five Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):

1. Terrence Jones (35%)
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (19%)
2. Jordan Farmar (18%)
3. Reggie Jackson (39%)
4. Glen Davis (38%)

Jones takes the top spot, and Augustin falls off. I’m not worried for Antetokounmpo’s value with news that Larry Sanders is probable to return this Friday. Sanders is more likely to affect John Henson and Miroslav Raduljica’s values, though he was miserable earlier this season and will have to work even harder to get back to the level at which he was playing last year under a different coach.

That does it for Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickups for 2013. I am out of the country until the second week of January, where I’ll have many, many games and much, much player news on which to catch up and report to you. In the mean time, follow @sneakyfantasybb on Twitter to catch any brief up-to-date news I may need to report.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday season, and have a happy new year!

Advertisements

Pickup of the Day: Jodie Meeks


(AP Photo / Ross D. Franklin)

This season I will highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s owned in less than 40% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Monday, December 23 is Jodie Meeks. He’s owned in 26% of Yahoo! Leagues and 13.8% of ESPN Leagues. Much more press following Kobe Bryant’s injury has been given to Xavier Henry playing the point, Jordan Farmar’s return, and Nick Young’s general swagginess, but Meeks has quietly outperformed all non-Pau Gasol Lakers lately with a combination of threes, good percentages, and steals.

It’s been eight days since we’ve recommended a player based on his previous night’s performance, but here’s a look at Meeks’s line last night against Phoenix:
20131223 Jodie Meeks

Meeks’s value collapsed during Kobe’s six-game return, but he was excellent before and now becoming excellent again now that Kobe will be wearing his custom Boswell suits on the bench for six weeks.

Here’s a breakdown of Meeks’s numbers before, during, and after Kobe:

20131223 Jodie Chart

A lot of his recent value has been due to the fact that he’s played a lot more than his usual number of minutes with injuries decimating the Lakers, but there was clearly a huge dropoff in his production when Kobe was in the line-up. Before Kobe, however, this was a guy who shot 50% from the field, 83.7% from the line and hit 2.3 threes in under 30 mpg. I don’t know if he can keep up his most recent streak of steals, but Meeks is a solid SG prospect that should become even better when a real PG, like Jordan Farmar, is setting up his shots.

Other Notable Players: Here’s the argument why Khris Middleton isn’t the Pickup: he is averaging an astounding 45 mpg over his last four games, three of which went into overtime. He also dropped 29 points in another overtime game on Dec. 6, but in those five games in between? 7.8 pts, 3.4 reb, 1.4 ast, 0.2 stl, 0.8 3pm on 36.8% FG in 28 mpg.

I’m desperately scrambling in one of my leagues after losing Brook Lopez for the year, so please excuse some fawning over mediocre or fluky big man performances possibly for the rest of the year (Re: Jordan Hill). That being said, Cody Zeller had his best game of his professional career so far last night in that overtime win against the Bucks, dropping 12-7-4-0-2 in 22 min. Somehow, Charlotte is currently the six-seed in a putrid Eastern Conference, but if their season collapses later in the year, we may see more of him. Right now, he’s not a threat to steal minutes away from either Josh McRoberts or Al Jefferson.

By the way, Lopez is actually still owned in 60% of Yahoo! Leagues despite being done for the season. Give or take a few percentage points for people who just refuse to believe news and hold out for his return, ownership percentages for guys like him, who at one point were 100% owned, are a good indicator of how many fantasy managers are mostly or completely inactive. Another example: Derrick Rose is still owned in 36% of Yahoo! leagues despite being declared out for the season a month ago. In ESPN leagues, BroLo and D-Rose are at 41.3% and 16.5% respectively, so those managers might be more active.

Another strong game for Glen Davis, while Victor Oladipo continues tumbling. Whether or not Jameer Nelson or Arron Afflalo are traded, at some point this year Oladipo will take back the reins. In the meantime, Big Baby seems like he’s the bigger staple in the line-up.

It says a lot that Lou Williams couldn’t produce in 34 minutes of an OT game. And what do we think about DeMarre Carroll’s 8-4-2-1-1 with 2 3pm? As much as I rave about Wes Johnson, I need to mention that Carroll has been a better version of him.

Brooklyn is just a terrible team, but I find it interesting that Mirza Teletovic played 30 min. 31 mpg over his last two including one with BroLo, though Teletovic is anything but consistent with his production so far.

Brandan Wright fell off, but Vince Carter stacked two nice games each around a goose egg on Dec. 20. 14.8 pts, 3.8 reb, 5.8 ast, 1.0 stl, 1.8 3pm on 57.1% FG and 80.0% FT in those four games overall.

Jeremy Lin came back, but Aaron Brooks still pushed 30 min and was good, as predicted. What’s also interesting is Terrence Jones also played 30 min, his most minutes in 10 days. He’s fallen off hard for almost two weeks now, but he was so good before that you at least need to keep an eye on him if not add him.

Kosta Koufos, Jon Leuer and Ed Davis were all so subpar that coach Dave Joerger gave 33 min to James Johnson? Johnson’s value disappears when Tayshaun Prince returns, but a return to the starting line-up might mean Koufos can once again become a double-double + blocks machine.

Just when I thought John Salmons might overtake Terrence Ross, Ross comes out, drops 23 points on 62.5% FG, and makes me look like a fool. Although once again he didn’t do more than get points and threes.

Mediocre big man alert: Timofey Mozgov dropped a double-double, but it was with Kenneth Faried out. Coach Brian Shaw expects Faried to play Friday.

Drop Jordan Hill. Some people might still believe in him, but his recent numbers indicate that coach Mike D’Antoni has no interest in playing his second-best big man consistently regardless of matchups. Also, Chris Kaman is no good again now that Gasol’s back.

And last night it was Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green and Marcus Morris who showed up for the Suns. Plumlee’s career rebounding night shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, as numerous big men have had career nights against the Lakers this year. Green however has been good three games in a row now, averaging 21 points and 5.3 threes in 28 mpg. His biggest problem this year has been staying consistent with both Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe in the line-up, and he’s doing that now. Still, who knows if he’ll be a victim of the Suns’ carousel next game.

Top Five Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (18%)
2. Jordan Farmar (14%)
3. Reggie Jackson (38%)
4. Glen Davis (37%)
5. D.J. Augustin (22%)

Goodbye Jon Leuer, hello D.J. Augustin. Augustin should probably be much higher for a guy who averaged 13.7 pts, 2.3 reb, 8.0 ast, 1.7 stl and 3.0 3pm on 50.0% FG and 80.0% FT, but I still distrust what I’m seeing from him until Kirk Hinrich returns. Though he’s certainly producing a lot more than was expected from him when Chicago picked him up. The Lakers only wish they could say the same about Kendall Marshall.

Hindsight: So I was holding on to Leuer too long. He is by far the Grizzlies’ most offensively talented big man off the bench, but his streak of seven straight double-digit scoring games did correspond to six Grizzly losses…A little over a week ago, I dropped Brandon Knight to pick back up Jordan Hill. If you want to stop reading my blog forever now, I’ll understand. In my defense, I wanted another big man because BroLo couldn’t stay healthy (and now rests in peace on our waiver wire), and I thought Knight’s FG% would sink my team. I still think his FG% will drop back off, but BK — 25.0 pts, 8.8 reb, 7.8 ast, 2.8 3pm on 45.7% FG over his last four. For someone else’s team. Damn.

And with that last nugget of coal in my stocking, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. There are no games tonight, so I’ll talk to you all again the day after #NBAXmas!

No New Pickup

There is no new Pickup from last night’s brief slate of games. Check out the Top Five below to see who you should pick up in general.

Other Notable Players: Matt Barnes didn’t get a chance to have a second good game as he got ejected for a flagrant two foul. Jared Dudley was unremarkable but serviceable (15-4-0-4-0, 1 3pm) in his absence…Raptors coach Dwane Casey went with John Salmons down the stretch in last night’s win over Oklahoma City, including all of the fourth quarter. Though Salmons’ contributions weren’t substantial (15-3-2-2-0, 1 3pm), he is a more versatile player than starter Terrence Ross. Let’s see where this goes…If, like me, you’re still holding on to Greivis Vasquez, your outlook isn’t looking good. Not only have the Kyle Lowry rumors died off to the point of conjecture, but Lowry has looked fantastic lately, dropping 19.7 pts, 5.3 reb, 7.0 ast, 2.3 stl and 3.0 3pm last week…Danny Granger looked better in his second game. Lance Stephenson dropped a triple-double. I’m not concerned about either of them.

Top Five Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):

1. Jon Leuer (20%)
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (18%)
3. Jordan Farmar (9%)
4. Reggie Jackson (38%)
5. Glen Davis (37%)

Not concerned about all about Jackson’s 1-for-11 game last night. Bad games happen to everyone. Tonight we’ll see exactly how brilliant/idiotic I’ve been for clinging on to Leuer for the top spot.

Pickup of the Day: Aaron Brooks


(AP Photo / Pat Sullivan)

This season I will highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s owned in less than 40% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Saturday, December 21 is Aaron Brooks. He’s owned in 8% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.9% of ESPN Leagues, but he is the the most added player in Yahoo! Leagues today because Patrick Beverley is out for 4-6 weeks with a broken hand. That just opened up 31 and a half minutes for Houston point guards, of which Aaron Brooks happens to be the only healthy one.

Ignoring the crazy rumors that Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik are being packaged to the Nets or Lakers (not even Prokhorov would pay $30 mil for one year of both…would he?), we should note Lin is hopeful to return on Monday. Even if he does, Brooks should still be pushing 30 mpg as the backup PG. If he doesn’t, watch out.

The biggest concern with Brooks is his recent abysmal FG%. He is averaging a horrific 28.6% FG over his past two weeks, but, when given more regular playing time over seven games in late November and early December, he shot 46.2% FG while averaging 13.9 pts, 2.6 reb, 4.1 ast, 2.0 stl and 2.6 3pm. Those are phenomenal numbers for a PG averaging 24 mpg off the bench, and now he may not have any competition ahead of him. Though the 2.3 TO he averaged during that seven-game stretch would also increase in nine-category leagues, the assists, steals and threes should more than compensate for that.

Other Notable Players: The question for fantasy owners looking at the Kings is no longer how good Derrick Williams can be, but can we trust Jason Thompson? I say no…As predicted, Tobias Harris stayed in the starting line-up, but it was the young gun Victor Oladipo that got pushed out and not the veteran Glen Davis. This keeps Baby’s value steadier than I thought it’d become…Terrence Jones is now back under 40% owned, and his recent collapse in playing time and role suggests the number should be lower than that…Neither Anthony Tolliver nor Chris Douglas-Roberts stepped up in the first game with the Bobhornets missing both Jeff Taylor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist…As well as D.J. Augustin, Tony Snell and Taj Gibson all played last night, it is really hard to trust them with Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng all out. Both Snell and Gibson have proven to be unreliable when both Butler and Deng are in the line-up. It’s questionable whether Augustin will still be useful after Hinrich returns, although “after Hinrich returns” has been a refrain for a long time. Hinrich did go through shootaround before last night’s game, but Augustin’s assist totals are tempting…Khris Middleton answered my challenge about his low FG% by shooting 73.3% on 15 FGA (literally answered it, he found me at a bar after the game and said “How you like them apples?”). He’s been decent lately except for his FG%, but his FG% for the season is better than what it’s been. Caron Butler also had a fantastic game in his return, and it’s notable that the extra minutes for him pushed O.J. Mayo’s minutes back more than they did Giannis Antetokounmpo’s. Keep in mind, though, that this was all done with John Henson sitting out, but his return is most likely just to sink Ekpe Udoh and Miroslav Raduljica’s minutes. Then again, you can never rely on anything with coach Larry Drew…Marco Belinelli pushed Boris Diaw out of the Spurs’ starting line-up and had his second good game in a row, this time with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all active. Let’s see where this goes…Okay, now I am paying attention to Brandan Wright, who is averaging 13.8 pts, 5.0 reb and 2.3 blk in his four games this season and has negated both DeJuan Blair and Samuel Dalembert’s values…And last night it was Channing Frye, P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green, while Miles Plumlee and the Morrises Markieff and Marcus disappointed. Of that group, only Frye is trustworthy right now…Told you Nick Young’s poor FG% was going to catch up with him eventually, but last night was brutal (5-for-18). Chris Kaman had a nice 10-17-3 blk line on almost as brutal FG% (5-for-17). He got the start because Pau Gasol was out with an upper respiratory infection. Gasol is questionable for Monday, but don’t assign even short-term value to Kaman just yet. Those of you who kept playing Jordan Hill were rewarded with a 14-10, but he still only saw 20 min of playing time. Unless there’s some type of secret injury that the Lakers are hiding, it just seems like coach Mike D’Antoni refuses to give him regular minutes despite an utter lack of better options. Finally, we should note that Wes Johnson played more minutes than any other player in last night’s game, and he might’ve finished with a decent night if he didn’t miss all seven of his FGs. I still say keep an eye on him, because his ceiling is high and he’s one of the few Lakers whose playing time doesn’t seem to be in question…Matt Barnes returned for the Clippers, which just reminded me that the Clippers have both Barnes and Jared Dudley. Why? They are virtually the same player. Barnes did post a nice 13-3-3-2-3 and 3 3pm last night though. He put a stop to Dudley’s recently solid play, and Barnes could post some nice numbers if he takes over Dudley’s spot. At least until J.J. Redick returns.

Top Five Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):

1. Jon Leuer (21%)
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (17%)
3. Jordan Farmar (8%)
4. Reggie Jackson (38%)
5. Glen Davis (37%)

We knew Andray Blatche wouldn’t last long on this list with Brook Lopez confirmed to be done for the season today, and he indeed graduated to 40% owned. Meanwhile, I’m keeping my deathgrip on Leuer like I did on Kosta Koufos, and Davis makes his return after showing he can keep his own deathgrip on that starting PF position in Orlando.

Pickup of the Day: Andray Blatche

(Al Bello / Getty Images)

This season I will highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s owned in less than 40% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Friday, December 20 is once again Andray Blatche, and this time it’s not even close. He’s owned in 36% of Yahoo! Leagues and 22.3% of ESPN Leagues, but he should be close to 100% owned for the rest of the season. In fact, if you own Brook Lopez, go get him right now. If you haven’t heard why yet, it’s got nothing to do with the 6-3-2 that Blatche dropped last night and everything to do with the news that Lopez has broken his foot and is likely done for the season.

Having previously lived in Washington, D.C. and closely followed the Gilbert Arenas-era Wizards, I’m surprised that I’d ever feel so fervently about Andray Blatche, the guy who slept in the Verizon Center for several nights as a rookie because he blew all his substantial paychecks and couldn’t pay rent. Yet, he’s not been the same player since moving to Brooklyn. As previously mentioned, he averaged 17.9 pts, 9.3 reb, 1.5 ast and 1.8 stl in 30.5 mpg in eight starts for Lopez last season.

Blatche hasn’t started as much this season as the Nets have a deeper bench and thus have also rotated guys like Kevin Garnett, Reggie Evans and Mirza Teletovic in the starting line-up (KG is technically a regular starter, but injuries have rotated him in and out). Still, Blatche’s numbers in his nine games without Brook Lopez aren’t much worse: 17.6 pts, 6.4 reb, 1.1 ast, 1.3 stl, 0.8 blk on excellent 56.1% FG and 82.9% FT in 27.6 mpg.

Of all the players who stand to benefit from Lopez’s 31+ mpg that just opened up every night–Blatche, Evans, Teletovic and rookie Mason Plumlee–Blatche has been by far the most productive both in reality and in fantasy. He may have a little more competition for minutes than he did last year, but he’s the Nets’ best option. That’s saying a lot for a guy who once couldn’t pay rent on an NBA salary.

As for Brook Lopez himself, the official word is that he’s only “likely” to miss the rest of the season. He will be further evaluated in the upcoming days, and surgery will be likely. We may not know his actual timetable until the end of next week, but I have a hard time believing this will be like Marc Gasol’s timetable shifting from 6-8 weeks to 3-4 weeks. The expectation is that it’s season-ending, so at best you’re looking at a return close to the playoffs. If Blatche or someone else prominent is available in your leagues (somehow Paul Pierce and Spencer Hawes were available in some of my leagues), drop Lopez and grab them right now. If you’re in a deeper league without many notable options in your free agents pool, I understand if you want to hold on to him just a bit longer, but there’s likely no light at the end of this tunnel.

Other Notable Players: Some more Nets notes first from their overtime barn-burner against the Sixers last night. Pierce has clearly shaken off the rust from his injury, but Alan Anderson managed to drop 26-5-2-1-1 and 5 3pm last night. The 26 points were more than he scored in his previous four games combined, however. Still untrustworthy. Meanwhile Mirza Teletovic got the start for Garnett and dropped six threes to go with four rebounds, two assists and a block. He’s been an interesting source of points and threes for three of his past four games, but, in that fourth game, he posted a 0-0-0-1-1. Unfortunately, the Nets have absolutely no incentive to tank as they don’t even own their own first-round pick until 2019, so don’t expect them to give up and start playing their young prospects like Teletovic or Mason Plumlee any time soon. It’ll be interesting to see what they do the rest of the year, but most likely what they’ll do is suck very hard…Michael Carter-Williams finally returned from injury, but Tony Wroten still managed a decent 19-3-3 and 2 3pm game, though his turnover problems continued with four last night. He played less than 24 min last night, however, and he doesn’t look any closer to supplanting Hollis Thompson in the starting line-up. There isn’t much benefit to be gained from keeping him on your roster at this point, unless you’re waiting for the next MCW injury…Drop Marvin Williams if you haven’t already. Enes Kanter is on his way to reclaiming the starting PF spot, and even Jeremy Evans is outplaying Williams. Alec Burks continues looking like an interesting pickup, although his lack of peripheral stats (outside points-rebounds-assists) still makes him a limited asset…Lou Williams got most of his 25 points in garbage time, and he scored seven points total in his previous two games. He’s at least averaging out to what I expected he’d be getting when I made him the Pickup, but this wasn’t what I was hoping for…O.J. Mayo returned but came off the bench behind Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, Mayo was great, while Alphabet Soup was underwhelming. Like I said before, we’re too early on Antetokounmpo at this point, but his time is coming. He’s still worth a stash but not a play yet. On the other hand, Khris Middleton would be a more interesting play if he wasn’t averaging 36.0% FG over his past seven games…Mediocre PG alert: Jarrett Jack is averaging 14.3 pts, 4.7 reb, 4.3 ast and 1.0 3pm over his last three…Isaiah Thomas isn’t anywhere near our radar as a potential pickup, but I’m pointing out his subpar performance last night as an example of Miami’s formidable defense against point guards. Matchups don’t matter in fantasy basketball nearly as much as they do in fantasy football, but Miami has been the worst team for opposing point guards for years now…Danny Granger returned for the Pacers, which helps them a lot as a team but won’t matter nearly as much in fantasy. There is no reason he needs to be 55% owned, and Lance Stephenson owners should have no reason to fear. If the Paul George owner in your league is actually nervous about this, he or she is probably also dumb enough to get suckered into a lopsided trade for George…Terrence Ross continued doing what he does, which is not much, and Greivis Vasquez’s stock continues to plummet as we get further removed from the Kyle Lowry trade rumors…Not buying this Brandan Wright thing yet…It was the bench mob’s turn in Phoenix last night, as Markieff Morris, Gerald Green and Marcus Morris produced while P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee mainly disappointed. Frye was especially disappointing as he topped 20 points in his two previous games before dropping three last night. Meanwhile, Markieff filled up the stat line with 25-6-2-3-3, 2 3pm and 73.3% of a whopping 15 FTA. He is averaging a solid 1.2 stl and 1.2 blk over his last five, but Frye’s fantastic 2.6 3pm and better FG% still makes him more valuable. Obviously all the Phoenix players mentioned here are erratic from game-to-game, but Plumlee, Frye and Markieff flatten out to useful averages in the longer run…Remember when Corey Brewer was a useful fantasy player?…The big winners of the first of many Kobe Bryant-less Lakers game last night were Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry and Nick Young. Henry got the start at PG with mixed results, but he’ll own that spot until Jordan Farmar returns if you can stomach the low FG% and turnovers. I still believe Meeks has the most room to improve his stats, but the night obviously belonged to Swaggy P, another former Wizard who was abysmal in D.C. but has found new life with his new squad. I was too late to jump on his bandwagon, as he’s already up to 45% owned (I’m still stupidly refusing to drop Lopez for him), but he’s been a shockingly strong source of points and threes, though I’d expect his FG% to drop closer to his career 42.8%…On the other hand, I have no idea what coach Mike D’Antoni is doing with Jordan Hill, who only played 14 min last night despite a clear lack of big man options behind him on the Lakers’ bench. Even if he struggles again tonight, what are we to make out of this situation? Is D’Antoni really planning to rotate four guys through that PF position in every game?…Jon Leuer has now had two disappointing games in a row. I’m not sure what’s happening there, but neither Ed Davis nor Kosta Koufos did anything too inspiring. Leuer is averaging 14.0 pts, 5.7 reb and 2.0 3pm on 56.3% FG over his last three even after two stinkers, just to show you how strong a player he’s been. I wouldn’t give up on him yet, but something strange has been happening…Beno Udrih couldn’t keep his decent-to-good streak of games up to three, so he’s not worth owning now that Raymond Felton is targeting a Monday return. I’m seeing flashes of Patrick Beverley in Tim Hardaway Jr., which is not a good thing for fantasy purposes.

Top Five Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):

1. Andray Blatche (36%)
2. Jon Leuer (23%)
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo (18%)
4. Jordan Farmar (8%)
5. Reggie Jackson (37%)

GET. BLATCHE. NOW.

Hindsight: Well, former Pickup Jeff Taylor goes from disappointing to more clearly disappointing. He’s done for the year with a ruptured Achilles.

Pickup of the Day: Giannis Antetokounmpo


(Jerome Miron / USA TODAY Sports)

This season I will highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s owned in less than 40% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Tuesday, December 17 is Giannis Antetokounmpo, and I’d been practicing spelling that name for a long time in anticipation of this moment, even though I may be jumping the gun. He’s owned in 9% of Yahoo! Leagues and 0.6% of ESPN Leagues, but he is by far the no. 1 pickup today across Yahoo leagues. He’ll likely be available for longer in ESPN leagues because, quite frankly, ESPN has an awful interface that requires you to either spell “Antetokounmpo” perfectly or browse through all players until you find him.

He didn’t play last night, but his averages over the last three games are 12.0 pts, 8.7 reb, 1.7 ast, 0.7 stl, 0.7 blk and 0.3 TO on 47.6 FG% on 7.0 FGA and 80.0% FT on 6.7 FTA in 30 mpg. That FT shooting is a sneakily healthy boost, but otherwise his numbers don’t really stand out. Marvin Williams could do that.

Williams is actually an interesting comparison. As an incredible physical specimen drafted no. 2 overall above Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the 2005 NBA draft, expectations for him were sky high, and he’s now considered a bust despite some solid work for Utah this season. Antetokounmpo, another incredible physical specimen, was drafted 15th this year in what is largely considered the worst draft class since 2000. There were no expectations for him this year, but he has lit the blogosphere on fire, dominating headlines even as fellow Buck John Henson is putting up insanely good career numbers.

Antetokounmpo is getting his first start tonight because O.J. Mayo is out attending his grandmother’s funeral (condolences to Mayo), so this may not be a permanent move. As I mentioned many times before, he’s eventually going to get lots of minutes this season when the Buck give up and commit to playing their young guys, but it’s only mid-December. I don’t think the tanking is happening just yet, even if they are the worst team in the league right now.

Antetokounmpo’s potential is undeniable, though, and not just on the floor. Here’s a translated excerpt from his Greek blog that won me over completely:

It was an amazing experience, the game vs the Heat. Until of course the next day and the game vs the Thunder. I have said many times that Durant is my idol. He is the player I watch the most. When I came out on the court for a workout, he was already there, shooting. Working. I stopped and watched him. He was deadly serious. I could see it in his face. He was not relaxed. He was warming up with tension. I felt a satisfaction, when I saw my idol, approaching basketball with such determination.

 

In the span of just two days I found myself against two superstars like LeBron and Durant and I got the biggest lessons. Two of the biggest and most recognizable basketball players, with huge bank accounts, working hard, like they have something to prove, while in reality they have nothing to prove. LeBron is a two-time champion and four-time MVP. They have both played in so many All Star Games. Even so, work never stops. They do not rest in their glory. They are after perfection.

 

At the same time I saw right in front of my eyes what the combination of talent and hard work can offer to an athlete.

I read something like that from a 19-year old kid, and I can’t help but think this kid just gets it. I’ve only thought that about one other NBA rookie, and I see the same insight and determination in Antetokounmpo, if not necessarily the same polished skill set, as I did in his idol.

If you really need your bench guys to give you something, then I think you might be a little early pulling the trigger on the Alphabet Soup. Otherwise, he’s worth a roster spot just to be able to follow him more closely every day.

Other Notable Players: Many people caught last night’s thrilling point guard battle between elite PGs Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, but how many of you caught the backup battle between mediocre PGs Jarrett Jack and Slo Mo Williams? Jack has averaged 12.0 pts, 3.5 reb, 3.8 ast and 1.0 3pm in his last four, and Williams has 11.0 pts, 2.5 reb, 5.0 ast and 1.8 3pm over his last four…In each game since his 31-point game, Derrick Williams has played in fewer minutes than the last, culminating in last night’s 22 min in which he dropped a 5-0-1-1-0. I was skeptical of his ability to push Jason Thompson out of the line-up after Rudy Gay got there. Should’ve stayed skeptical. This is a timeshare…Jordan Hill isn’t injured. He just picked up four fouls in seven and a half minutes. Don’t worry, Larry Sanders does this kind of stuff all the time and look how well he’s–er, nevermind…An update on Lakers guards: Nick Young is still unbelievably most consistent, Jodie Meeks is regaining his value, Wes Johnson finally put up another weirdly useful line 7-5-6-1-1 in 32 min, and I jumped the gun on Jordan Farmar (see Hindsight below)…Mike Conley sat out last night, and Jerryd Bayless was ehh, just okay. Oh, and if anybody asks, I totally had Jon Leuer at the top of my Top Five Pickups for the last two weeks, but I’d been misspelling his name as “Kosta Koufos“…After 10 games averaging 15.3 pts, 3.7 reb, 2.8 ast and 1.2 3pm in 27 min, Reggie Jackson has averaged just 9-3-3.5 plus no threes in 21 min in his last two games. Some might blame Thabo Sefolosha’s return, but Jackson has been getting steady minutes long before Sefolosha sat for three games. I’m not worried yet. Jackson’s numbers will be up-and-down, but he’s been pretty locked into sixth man minutes for a while now…Al-Farouq Aminu didn’t exactly stuff the stat sheet, but he prodded it from many angles with a 10-8-2-1-2 line. He got even fewer minutes than megabust Austin Rivers, who seems to be the one benefiting the most from Tyreke Evans’s absence. I call Rivers a megabust, but a Twitter commenter did note that Rivers has outplayed max contract-owner Eric Gordon in the last two games, so who’s the real megabust lately?…Andre Iguodala returned last night, and, though he did very little, you can now safely bench Harrison Barnes. If you didn’t drop Draymond Green weeks ago, then A. you can definitely do it now and B. you’re probably paying way too much attention to silly things like your job or your family. Stop neglecting your fantasy basketball team!

Top Five Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):

1. Jon Leuer (25%)
2. Jordan Hill (33%)
4. Marvin Williams (15%)
5. Jordan Farmar (7%)
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo (9%)

Clearly I’m not worried about Hill, although I also ignored the signs for him and Koufos before. Might regret not bumping Glen Davis back up. On the other hand, the bad news on Farmar drops him down, but not too far (see hindsight below). Michael Carter-Williams’s probable return on Friday means Wroten’s value as a starter for your fantasy team is probably done for the moment. Honestly, I’m not sure that Wroten’s less valuable than Antetokounmpo moving forward in the short-term, but the Alphabet Soup is to me what RG3 was to Matthew Berry last year. I can’t speak about him objectively.

Hindsight: All that optimism for a Friday return for Jordan Farmar is gone. Looks like he’s out at least another week, but if he’s back by Christmas, you’ll still be glad you stashed him…Over the All-Star break, when there are no games, I’m going to do a list of my best and worst pickups. Jeff Taylor will definitely be on my list of worst. This guy’s shooting just fell off a cliff this year.

Pickup of the Day: Lou Williams


(Kevin Liles / USA TODAY Sports)

This season I will highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s owned in less than 40% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickups for Saturday, December 14 is Lou Williams. He’s owned in 23% of Yahoo! Leagues and 11.7% of ESPN Leagues, which is a surprisingly high amount considering his minimal contributions so far this year. I’d wager it’s mostly people who drafted him based on Yahoo!’s preseason ranking, which was based on his productive season last year as a scorer off the bench for Atlanta. Last night proved he can still be that guy.

Here’s a look at his line last night against New York:
20131214 Lou Williams

Williams just had a minutes restriction due to his knee surgery lifted on Dec. 10, although it’s unclear what that limit was as he’s still only averaging 23:40 since then. Nonetheless, this is good news for his future value, as Williams put up 14.1 pts, 2.1 reb, 3.6 ast, 1.1 stl and 1.8 3pm off the bench for the Hawks last year. However, this year the Hawks have turned to Shelvin Mack a lot more for his playmaking, so Williams will have more competition for minutes behind Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver, who are both firmly in place as the starters.

He’s not a perfect Pickup, but last night showed he can still light it up off the bench when given the right opportunity.

Other Notables: Jordan Hill got over 30 min for the first time in over two weeks, so he seems like he’s over his ankle injury that’s plagued him all month. There is so little depth down low for the Lakers that he’s automatically valuable if he regains this type of regular minutes, though it’s not clear yet whether that’ll happen…Jarrett Jack has been putting up numbers like a poor man’s Reggie Jackson…While Iman Shumpert remained miserable, both Pablo Prigioni (11-1-6-4-0) and Tim Hardaway, Jr. (13-4-2-3-0) had serviceable games. Amar’e Stoudemire fell back to earth…Both starter Marquis Teague and newly signed D.J. Augustin struggled last night for the Bulls, making neither likely to have value when Kirk Hinrich returns from injury. Mike Dunleavy still contributed but played his lowest number of minutes in two weeks. His value is likely done with both Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng back, as is Taj Gibson’s…Pay no mind to Mo Williams’s 14-3-7 with three threes against Philadelphia. Portland set a record in threes last night, and playing against Philly is the team that made Jeff Taylor look like a star…Giannis Antetokounmpo played a season-high 35 min and put up a 14-9-4-0-1. I’ll keep talking about him because I love this kid, but really the Bucks aren’t ready to admit how awful they really are play him regularly yet. Alphabet just played a lot of garbage minutes last night as the Bucks were down 34 at one point…Vince Carter also put up an impressive 15-6-9-3-1 with Dirk Nowitzki out and has been an under-the-radar source of threes, assists and steals, but the big news was Brandan Wright who had an excellent 19-6 season debut in under 19 min. He mainly played at center while Samuel Dalembert got a DNP-CD, so don’t disqualify this performance too much due to Dirk’s absence. Wright is worth keeping an eye on, as he has a chance at supplementing DeJuan Blair as Dallas’s starting center.

Top Five Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):

1. Al-Farouq Aminu (19%)
2. Marvin Williams (13%)
3. Glen Davis (38%)
4. Kosta Koufos (30%)
5. Tony Wroten (24%)

At this point, I’d wager that Sixers are just keeping Michael Carter-Williams out on purpose to tank. Also, I had to drop Koufos and probably not even far enough, as he has been dominated by Nikola Pekovic as I write this, and the Grizzlies just started Jon Leuer in the second half. If he has a second bad game, we may have to bump Derrick Williams up here tomorrow, and the Pickup will almost certainly be Leuer.

Hindsight: Ready to admit Jeff Taylor’s one good game was a fluke. That’s what playing against the Sixers will do for you.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter at @SneakyFantasyBB for broader and more up to date NBA news!

Pickup of the Day: John Henson

2(Gary Dineen / NBAE via Getty Images)

This season I will highlight a notable player, based on the games played each night, who’s owned in less than 40% of Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball leagues.

The Sneaky Fantasy Basketball Pickup for Saturday, November 30 is John Henson. He’s owned in 31% of Yahoo! Leagues and 40.1% of ESPN Leagues. If I’ve learned one thing this year, it’s don’t trust the Milwaukee Bucks. After watching both injuries and coach Larry Drew jerk around the fantasy values of Larry Sanders, O.J. Mayo, Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia, Brandon Knight, Caron Butler, Khris Middleton, Gary Neal and Nate Wolters (remember them??), I recommended ignoring all Bucks players…except Henson. Henson, I said, was the only Buck with stable value. I was wrong. In his very next game, Henson played his fewest minutes of the year (15) and recorded a 5-5-2-0-1. Yet, here we are three days later, and Henson is the Pickup.

Here’s a look at his line tonight against Boston:
20131130 John Henson

Henson gets the Pickup due to one major change and one major constant. The change is that he started at center tonight for the first time in his career (he’d previously only started at PF). Coach Drew admitted Pachulia is still banged up from his summer foot surgery and finally gave the much more effective Henson the start. Henson did what you expect him to, which is rack up rebounds and blocks while giving you a little scoring. In many ways, he’s similar to the Bucks’ normal starting center, Larry Sanders, except for the part where Sanders put himself out of commission for six weeks by breaking his thumb while popping bottles over dudes’ heads in da club.

That’s the major constant. John Henson has played all 16 games this year, making him and O.J. Mayo (who’s been awful) the only mainstays of Milwaukee’s rotation who have. While Henson may continue getting the start over Pachulia, keep mind that the Bucks also played this game without Butler and Ilyasova. Then of course there’s the looming specter of Sanders, who’s the rightful starting center despite not doing much with that opportunity in the games he did play this season. At this point, though, I think Henson has played well enough to merit a larger role even when everyone is healthy, but I also think we’ll never see everyone healthy on this team at any point this year.

Is he legit? Last year, Henson was the rare per-minute stat phenom that superseded his ridiculous per-minute numbers when given the actual minutes. His per-36 projections were 16.5 pts, 12.9 reb and 1.8 blk. However, in his one game between 30-39 min, he played 31 min and posted 14 pts, 15 reb and 4 blk. It got even more ridiculous in his two games over 40 min, as in those he averaged 22.5 pts, 20.5 reb and 3.5 blk! These are the kind of numbers Wilt, Russell and Thurmond posted in the 1960’s when they were punking unathletic 6’8″ white guys!

Henson’s per-36 numbers are more pedestrian this year, but you can expect some silly rebounding and block totals if he continues getting starter’s minutes. Whether he continues, though, is still up in the air. After all, you can’t trust the Milwaukee Bucks.

Other Notable Pickups: One other quick note about the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo (who I will start calling by his nickname Alphabet, even though I hate it, because his real name is too ridiculous) had his best game of his pro career (10-7-4, 2 3’s) in 28 min, while Khris Middleton fell off and both Caron Butler and Ersan Ilyasova sat. This won’t become commonplace for Alphabet (ugh) yet, but his upside is tremendous…Andrew Bynum is not any close to under 40% owned, but it’s worth noting that he posted his first 20-10 game since May 14, 2012 when he did it in the playoffs against Oklahoma City. Add the five blocks to his 20-10, and you’d have to go back to November 15, 2009 against the Aaron Brooks and Luis Scola-led Rockets to find another game like that. I can almost guarantee Bynum will see his minutes capped in his next game, but it’s fun to see a reminder of what he’s capable of when healthy and motivated, even against an elite defender like Joakim Noah…Two good games with heavy minutes in a row for Chicago’s new starting backcourt of Kirk Hinrich and Tony Snell. Hinrich has a higher upside because Jimmy Butler will return and kick Snell back to the bench, but, if Snell keeps this up, he’ll have played his way into coach Tom Thibodeau’s trust…Of course, on the day both Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez return to the line-up and just one day after Andray Blatche posted zero points in 10 min, Blatche drops a 21-8-1-1-1 in 24 min off the bench. Don’t buy into it. Including tonight’s game, Blatche is averaging 8-6-1 in nine games with both KG and Lopez…A more interesting development is Shaun Livingston losing his starting spot to Tyshawn Taylor. Livingston had the better night–though that’s not saying much–but this demotion was a long time coming after he posted seven straight subpar games since his 23-point breakout against Portland…Kosta Koufos had his finest game yet as a starter this year (10-11-2-2-3), and he should be owned and started in all formats even if Marc Gasol will be back sooner than expected. Interestingly, Ed Davis also started and posted a serviceable 10 and 8 as Zach Randolph sat with an ingrown toenail. It’s an ingrown toenail, though. Don’t pick up Davis…Instead of Shane Larkin, Gal Mekel got the start at PG for the injured Jose Calderon. Mekel did get seven assists but otherwise did nothing of note other than miss a bunch of shots…Patrick Beverley may never put up fantasy lines anywhere close to the best of Linsanity, but his 11-6-5-3-1 and 3 threes tonight were very versatile. Plus I clearly overestimated Aaron Brooks’s possible impact…He’s hidden in San Antonio’s deep rotation, but Marco Belinelli is averaging 13.4 pts, 2.6 reb, 2.2 ast and 2.8 3’s on 53.3% FG and 83.3% FT over his last five games. He’s averaging just under 23 min (did I mention San Antonio’s rotation is deep?), but he’s producing…Final reminder to pick up Jared Sullinger, who posted a 21-14 tonight (though not much else other than a three and good FG%). He’s at 39% owned tonight, and we’ll probably have to stop talking about him tomorrow when he likely clears 40%…Okay, so everyone hang on to your Channing Frye stock, feel free to sell on Gerald Green if you need to (Eric Bledsoe is set to start the next game), and Markieff over Marcus Morris again, for now…Way too many people are still sleeping on Marvin Williams. He’s been excellent, is averaging 32 mpg and won’t be giving Enes Kanter his starting spot back any time soon. The Jazz as a team looked great tonight, as seven of the nine players who played scored 12+ points. You know who didn’t? Enes Kanter.

Top 5 Sneaky Pickups (owned in under 40% of Yahoo! Leagues):

1. Jared Sullinger (39%)
2. Channing Frye (39%)
3. Marvin Williams (10%)
4. Kosta Koufos (26%)
5. Glen Davis (35%)

This will be our last look at Jared Sullinger and Channing Frye for a while, as both are bound to blow over 40% by tomorrow after both had great games tonight. Sullinger just barely edges Frye out for that top spot because I’m still wary of what happens when Bledsoe rejoins Frye in the starting line-up and reclaims all his shots, but Frye’s fantasy upside is definitely higher. Meanwhile, Koufos’s strong game and Bass’s disappointing one tonight causes a switch in the bottom two. This, by the way, is the strongest Top Five we’ve ever had, and the ownership percentages back it up. Expect to see Henson and Bellineli join this group tomorrow night if no other notable players arise.

Hindsight: In other don’t-follow-my-own-advice-about-the-Bucks news, I just dropped Derrick Williams for Brandon Knight in one league following Knight’s almost-but-not-really-that-close-to-a-triple-double line of 20-9-8-1-1 and three threes tonight. As I said before I soured on all Milwaukee players, the Bucks want Knight to be their PG of the future. He’ll play a lot.